Female Editors: The Understated Champions for Women in Film - Raindance

Gender equality and female representation in Hollywood has been widely discussed and analysed for decades in the male-centric world of filmmaking. But making a film takes a crew of multiple moving parts and women have been making their mark and excelling in various integral roles of the moving making magic. For the population of female directors, composers, cinematographers, sound editors and mixers, female editors have been the understated storytellers for paving the way for women in the filmmaking industry. From Margaret Booth’s early work on D.W. Griffith’s films to Barbara Mclean’s seven Academy Award nominations for Best Film Editing, making her the first person in Oscar history to hold the record for most nominations in said category, women have helped cut together countless films across every genre since the beginning of film’s history.

The following list highlights and celebrates fifteen female editors, their work and the outstanding accomplishments they’ve achieved.

Dody Dorn – Memento (2000, directed by Christopher Nolan)

Dody Dorn has had her name attached to films such as Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (2005), David Ayer’s 2014 war film Fury, and Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (2008). But her most notable work was for cutting together Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000). A carefully constructed puzzle that you can watch forwards and backwards, it is no surprise that Memento earned her a nomination for Best Film Editing at the 74th annual Academy Awards.

Carol Littleton – E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982, directed by Steven Spielberg)  

We all remember the bike chase scene from E.T. and wished that flying through the sky was as easy and magical as putting on a red hoodie and getting on your bike with a blanket wrapped alien in the front makeshift basket. Unfortunately for all the kids of the ‘80s and ‘90s that tried, Elliott’s ride in the sky was purely movie magic that was cut together by Carol Littleton. Recipient of an Emmy Award for her work on Tuesdays with Moorie (1999) and member of the American Cinema Editors society Littleton’s other works include: The Big Chill (1983, Mick Jackson), The Rum Diary (2001, Bruce Robinson), and The Accidental Tourist (1988, Lawrence Kasdan).

Mary Jo Markey and Maryann Brandon – Star War: The Force Awakens (2015, directed by J.J. Abrams)

Co-editors of four other J.J. Abrams films, Mission: Impossible III (2006), Star Trek (2009), Super 8 (2011), and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013),  Markey and Brandon have worked together in editing explosions and countless fight scenes that were fought with fists, guns, phaser pistols and lightsabers. Although they serve as partners on Abrams’s films and were nominated together at the 88th Academy Awards for Best Editing for their work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, both women also hold separate editing credits to their names. Mary Jo Markey edited Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), fourteen episodes of Alias, and served as chief editor on Lost. While Maryann Brandon edited Passengers (2016, Morten Tyldum) and co-edited How to Train Your Dragon (2010, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois) and Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011, Jennifer Yuh Nelson).

Mary Sweeney – Mulholland Drive (2001, directed David Lynch)

For years critics and audiences have ranked this cult classic as one of the top films of the 21st century. If you didn’t fully understand Mulholland Drive the first time you watched it (or any subsequent times for that matter), it’s okay – most people didn’t and still don’t. That’s what makes David Lynch’s neo-noir mystery film a classic to watch over and over again. Mulholland Drive’s delivery of narrative and its play with audience expectations before completely shattering the film’s illusion of temporality and  linear storytelling relies in part with the editing work done by Mary Sweeney. Her work on Mulholland Drive earned Sweeney a BAFTA Award for Best Editing in 2001. In addition to editing Lynch’s other projects that include The Straight Story (1999) and Lost Highway (1997), in 2009 Sweeney wrote, directed, produced, and edited her feature-length debut Baraboo.  

Margaret Sixel – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, directed by George Miller)

If you watched Happy Feet (2006, George Miller) and/or Babe: Pig in the City (1998, George Miller) growing up, you’d probably be surprised to learn the co-editor to your childhood classics also edited Mad Max: Fury Road. For over two years Sixel worked for over a collective 6,000 hours to produce the final cut of Mad Max. Sifting through over 10 to 20 hours of footage from each day of filming, Sixel and her team worked to cut together a film where she stressed the importance of balance between crafting the best version of each scene while not exhausting the audience with the final cut. With Margaret Sixel’s attention to detail and dedication to her craft, it is no surprise that her work for Mad Max: Fury Road won her the Oscar for Best Film Editing at the 88th Academy Awards.

Thelma Schoomaker – The Wolf of Wall Street (2013, directed by Martin Scorsese) and basically all of Martin Scorsese’s films  

Scorsese’s editor for over forty years, Thelma Schoomaker is credited for stitching together Hugo (2011), Shutter Island (2010), Goodfellas (1990), and Silence (2016). With three Academy Awards for Raging Bull (1980), The Aviator (2004), and The Departed (2006) out of seven nominations, Schoomaker is the only female, among three other men, that holds the title for most awards in the category.

Dede Allen – Bonnie and Clyde (1967, directed by Arthur Penn)

Bonnie and Clyde marked a new wave in Hollywood when it introduced ultraviolence and the infamous love affair to the big screen. The New Hollywood classic’s final purge of bullets and blood was edited by none other than Dede Allen. She has been nominated for three Best Editing Academy Awards for Dog Day Afternoon (1976, Sidney Lumet), Reds (1982, Warren Beatty), and Wonder Boys (2000, Curtis Hanson). Over the course of her career Allen has had her name attached to over twenty films, you may not be familiar with her name but she is to thank for stitching together the classics we all know and love: The Breakfast Club (1985, John Hughes), The Wiz (1978, Sidney Lumet), and The Addams Family (1991, Barry Soonenfeld).

Sally Menke – Pulp Fiction (1994, directed by Quentin Tarantino) and every Tarantino film between 1992-2009

Director-editor-teams have proven to be strong, frequent and successful in Hollywood, and this duo is no exception. From his beginnings as an independent filmmaker with Reservoir Dogs (1992) until the end of her life, Sally Menke was Quentin Tarantino’s editor from 1992 to 2009. Described as his ‘only, truly genuine collaborator’ Menke helped Tarantino bring his nonlinear storylines, ultraviolence, and ensemble casts to the big screen through Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill (2003-2004), and Inglourious Basterds (2009). Tarantino’s number one collaborator since his feature-length debut, the first film he directed without Menke, Django Unchained (2012), was dedicated in her memory.   

Verna Fields – Jaws (1975, directed by Steven Spielberg)

Before Matthew Robbins, Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz, John Milius and George Lucas became big names in Hollywood, they were USC students of the woman you can thank for your childhood fear of sharks and open water. Jaws not only earned Verna Fields her Best Editing win at the 48th Academy Awards, it was also the last editing credit of her career. Over her twenty-one-year long career Fields has her name attached a number of New Hollywood classics that include: Paper Moon (1973, Peter Bogdanovich), The Sugarland Express (1974, Steven Spielberg), and American Graffiti (1973, George Lucas).    

Sandra Adair – Boyhood (2014, directed by Richard Linklater)

Boyhood might have taken twelve years to film but the director-editor-team of Sandra Adair and Richard Linklater is a partnership that dates back to 1993 with Dazed and Confused. Since then Adair has edited every Linklater-directed film including, Waking Life (2001), School of Rock (2003), and the Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), Before Midnight (2013) trilogy. With over thirty editing credits to her name, the work Sandra Adair dedicated to Boyhood for twelve years earned her an American Cinema Editors Eddie Award and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Editing.  

Dana E. Glauberman – Up in the Air (2009, directed by Jason Reitman)

If you’ve seen a Ivan or Jason Reitman film, you’ve seen Dana E. Glauberman’s work. Editor for Jason Reitman’s Thank You for Smoking (2006), Juno (2007), Up in the Air (2009), and Ivan Reitman’s No Strings Attached (2011), Glauberman’s work on Thank You for Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air has earned her nominations for the American Cinema Editors Eddie Awards. In addition to her Eddie Award nominations, Glauberman also won Editor of the Year at the 2009 Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards and the Hollywood Editor Award at the 2008 Hollywood Film Festival for Up in the Air.

Lisa Lassek – The Circle (2017, directed by James Ponsoldt)

Editor of one of the most anticipated  films of 2017, Lisa Lassek is no stranger to cutting together highly anticipated blockbusters. Co-editor for both The Avengers (2012, Joss Whedon) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015, Joss Whedon), Lassek is Whedon’s go-to editor as she has cut together Whedon’s Serenity (2005) and the Whedon-produced film The Cabin in the Woods (2012, Drew Goddard). Not only a veteran of the big screen, Lisa Lassek’s work has also graced the small screen through episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Community.

Anne V. Coates – Lawrence of Arabia (1962, directed by David Lean)

With a career that dates back to 1947 and over fifty editing credits to her name, Anne V. Coates continues to thrive in the editing industry. Coates is most well known for editing David Lean’s epic film classic Lawrence of Arabia, a film that earned Coates her first Academy Award nomination for Best Editing; a category she continued to pick nominations up for throughout her career for Becket (1964, Peter Glenville), The Elephant Man (1980, David Lynch), In the Line of Fire (1993, Wolfgang Petersen), and Out of Sight (1998, Steven Soderbergh). In addition to being an Oscar nominated editor, Coates also holds four BAFTA nominations for Best Editing, a BAFTA Fellowship and a Lifetime Achievement Oscar to her name.

Emma E. Hickox – Kinky Boots (2005, directed by Julian Jarrold)

Like her mother Anne V. Coates, Emma E. Hickox has an impressive résumé of her own. With 29 films to her name over the last 25 years, Hickox has cut together films across a variety of genres. Hickox’s work includes: Kinky Boots, Rock of Ages (2012, Adam Shankman), Becoming Jane (2007, Julian Jarrold), A Walk to Remember (2002, Adam Shankman) and Bad Moms (2016, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore). Not only is Emma an accomplished editor, she is also a founding member of the British Independent Film Awards alongside Raindance’s Founder Elliot Grove and Head of Programming Suzanne Ballantyne.